"Beauty-obsessed Venezuelans face a scarcity of brand-name breast
implants, and women are so desperate that they and their doctors are
turning to devices that are the wrong size or made in China, with less
rigorous quality standards.
Venezuelans once had easy access to implants approved by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration. But doctors say they are now all-but
impossible to find because restrictive currency controls have deprived
local businesses of the cash to import foreign goods. It may not be
the gravest shortfall facing the socialist South American country, but
surgeons say the issue cuts to the psyche of the image-conscious
"The women are complaining," said Ramon Zapata, president of the
Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Venezuelan women are very concerned with
Venezuela is thought to have one of the world's highest plastic
surgery rates, and the breast implant is the seminal procedure.
Doctors performed 85,000 implants here last year, according to the
International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Only the U.S.,
Brazil, Mexico and Germany — all with significantly larger populations
— saw more procedures."
"It's a culture of 'I want to be more beautiful than you.' That's why
even people who live in the slums get implants," surgeon Daniel
Slobodianik said, fiddling with an FDA-approved pouch of saline
solution no longer on sale here.
Slobodianik used to perform several breast implants each week, but now
performs closer to two a month. He says women call his office every
day asking if he the implant size they're looking for. When they can't
find it, they choose a second-best option, almost always a size up.
No one is giving the frustrated women much sympathy, especially not
Mr Slobodianik used to perform several breast implants each week, but
now performs closer to two a month, despite women calling his office
every day seeking inquiring about available cup sizes.
Despite the frustration, the image conscious women aren't getting much
sympathy in their homeland, with social media users saying the panic
shows the real shortage in the country is values.
In the absence of U.S. brands, China is cashing in on the shortage
with implant that are worth about a third of the $600 price tag of
those approved by European regulators.
Mr Slobodianik said the cheaper implants came with heightened risks:
'I'm not saying they're not safe, but I've removed more than a few
ruptured Chinese implants. I just don't feel comfortable with them.'